Elul and the Solar Eclipse: Removing the Blocks to Find Meaning
Three steps to embrace the ever-present meaning in our lives.
On Monday August 21, 2017 as the Hebrew month of Elul begins, all of North America will witness an eclipse of the sun. The last time America saw a solar eclipse was in 1979. For approximately three hours the moon will pass between the sun and the Earth, blocking all or part of the sun from a given location.
For those who will be in the path of ‘totality’ it will appear to them for a few minutes that the light of the sun has disappeared. Even though we can’t see the sun during an eclipse, we know that it is still there. Similarly, there are times in our lives when the meaning and purpose in our lives isn’t visible to us, but it is still there waiting for us to see it.
Similar to the period right after three minutes of total darkness, when God moves the moon and reveals once again the powerful light of the sun, Elul is a special time when He makes it easier for us to rebuild our relationships and forge a deeper spiritual connection with Him.
Often we look for meaning outside of ourselves, but a meaningful life is really a mindset that we need to work on developing every day. There are three steps we can use to develop this mindset. The first step is believing that each of our lives has a purpose even if we aren’t yet sure what that purpose is. We need to know that each of us is called to something just like we know that the sun is still shining behind the moon. Reconnecting with our faith that our lives matter and that our roles within this world are significant is the foundation of a meaningful mindset.
The second step to develop a meaningful mindset is recognizing that what ultimately makes our lives meaningful is giving to others and using our gifts to contribute to the world. When we make the meaning of our lives solely about our needs, we will find ourselves stuck in a dead end. Adding value to the lives of others is what opens up new opportunities and reveals to us different levels of meaning in our lives.
And the third step is realizing that happiness is not a goal that we can directly achieve, but instead it is often the result of living a meaningful life. Dr. Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, taught us that there are three things that give meaning to our lives: first, a project; second, a significant relationship, and third, a redemptive view of suffering. Happiness isn’t something that we can pursue; it must ensue from these three life areas – devoting ourselves to a higher cause, creating meaningful connections with others and seeing the pain and the obstacles in our lives as stepping stones to growth.
The Kotzker Rebbe said: “People are accustomed to look at the heavens and to wonder what happens there. It would be better if they would look within themselves, to see what happens there.”
In Elul we have the chance to look within ourselves and to find the gifts within us that are hiding behind the shadow of life’s distractions. This month is the time to learn from the lesson of the eclipse: the light has been here all along, waiting for us to see it and use it to grow.